Barcelona 2, Manchester United 2 (Europa League R32 Play-Off)
A precision strike by Marcus Rashford and an own goal by Jules Kounde saw Manchester United come away with a draw at Barcelona.Embed from Getty Images
The two goals cancelled out Marcos Alonso’s opener for Barcelona from a corner but Raphinha equalised for the La Liga league leaders as they took control again in the final quarter of this exciting game.
Both sides went for goals throughout and in a frantic finish Casemiro hit his own post while David De Gea saved from Ansu Fati saw Barcelona look for a winner while the in-form Rashford could have scored another goal but was denied a foul against Kounde after being tackled on the edge of the box as he went clean through.
Both sides enjoyed 18 shots on goal apiece in an open game with plenty of goal mouth action.
United boss Erik ten Hag praised both sides who took part in another edge of the seat thriller and called for the Reds to finish the job at Old Trafford next week.
He said: “We dictated at the game apart from 15 minutes in the first half.
“We had so many chances and was disappointed it was 0-0 at half time, but it was 2 attacking teams tonight and we have to finish it at Old Trafford.
“We have a lot of character and determination in this team, we turned it around when we were down.
He explained the tactical switches he made before the game which initially unbalanced Barcelona, saying:
“It’s not only about Wout [Weghorst] because he did well [at number 10] but he gives us variation and Jadon [Sancho] and Bruno [Fernandes] in the half spaces gave us opportunities to win this game.
On missing the chance to take a first leg lead back to Old Trafford, Ten Hag complained of the last man tackle on Rashford by Jules Kounde.
“It was a clear foul on Rashy, you can discuss if it was in or out of the box but if outside then it’s a red card as the keeper was the last man.
“Credit Rashford for the goal because he’s in great form.
There were three changes form the game against Leeds United with Raphael Varane, Casemiro, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka returning to the starting lineup, replacing Harry Maguire, Marcel Sabitzer, and Diogo Dalot.
Both of the ex-Real Madrid players – Varane and Casemiro – got exactly the expected response at the ground of their former club’s rivals.
Barcelona were missing Ousmane Dembele and Sergio Busquets and also elected to field Marcos Alonso at centre half instead of his ex-Chelsea colleague Andreas Christensen.
The home side were confused by United’s surprising use of their attacking players, with Bruno Fernandes on the right, Rashford at centre forward with Wout Weghorst behind him, and Jadon Sancho on the left.
Both sides pressed each other high but it was Barcelona who had the better chances in the first half.
David De Gea saved from Robert Lewandowski in the opening minutes of this game after Gavi touched the ball into his path.
Marcos Alonso sent a free kick wide and Pedri volleyed the ball over as United’s hosts dominated the early exchanges.
But United were dangerous on the break, and when the chance came after 28 minutes with Wout Weghorst running onto a deep pass and seeing his shot saved by Marc-Andre Ter Stegen who also palmed away an inventive strike by the in-form Marcus Rashford who was trying to turn a shot inside the back post five minutes later.
Jordi Alba claimed for a penalty as Barca made another breakthrough soon after that but was denied by VAR.
Goals in the second half but Barcelona lose Gavi and likely Pedri for the second leg at Old Trafford after earning a draw at the Nou Camp
Barcelona suffered an injury blow when Pedri went down off the ball and was replaced by the experienced Sergi Roberto shortly before half time.
Raphinha’s long range effort drifted away from De Gea’s post as Barcelona started the second half on the front foot.
And Sancho put a great chance wide from close range after Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s cross, back heeled into his path by Weghorst, was not properly cleared.
But poor marking did for United after Alonso put Barcelona into the lead from a corner in the 50th minute.
Alonso found space at the back post with Fred too slow to react as he headed past De Gea inside the back post fro 6 yards out.
Casemiro’s long range effort went over the bar before Marcus Rashford raced down the inside right channel and slid the ball past Ter Stegen at the near post at an acute angle 3 yards out barely 3 minutes later after Fred slid him in on goal.
It was his 14th goal in the last 16 matches to notch up his 22nd goal of the season.
Raphinha’s spectacular strike was saved and held by De Gea as Barcelona upped the pressure.
And United went 2-1 up after 59 minutes when a short corner routine saw Luke Shaw roll the ball to Rashford who raced past Raphinha on the touchline to ping a cutback into the six yard box where Bruno Fernandes got a touch before it went in off Jules Kounde.
The goal stood after a brief VAR check and Wan-Bissaka had a shot blocked by Jordi Alba while a heavy touch denied Rashford a chance to run on the Barca goal after he won the ball.
Rashford went down into the box after running onto a through ball by Fernandes before being tackled but the referee refused his penalty claim and didn’t even give a foul on the edge of the box which might have resulted in a red card for the last Barcelona man.
But Gavi, who will miss the second leg alongside the injured Pedri, after picking up a booking tonight, then won a free kick in a dangerous area after Fred got involved.
Ansu Fati, Andreas Christensen, and Alejandro Balde came on for Jordi Alba, Franck Kessie, and Alonso as Barcelona waited to take the free kick which Lewandowski blazed over from 25 yards out.
Fred blazed wide but as United started to pick up bookings Lewandowski attacked a long range ball in by the ever dangerous Raphinha which went through Varane’s legs and past De Gea to equalise on the night.
Rashford sliced his shot while aiming for the near post again while a long punt up for Raphinha from Ter Stegen needed De Gea to make the save from his header.
Ansu Fati fired wide and then Alejandro Garnacho was brought on for Sancho for the last 9 minutes.
Ex-Manchester City player Ferra Torres replaced an angry Raphinha for the last 7 minutes.
There were claims for a penalty after a handball by Fred in a frenetic final few minutes with VAR checking it over and not deeming action necessary.
Casemiro hit his own post trying to clear the ball for United while De Gea saved from Ansu Fati at close range as Barcelona looked for a late winner against a tired looking United and peppered the Reds with attacks.
If a depleted Barcelona can put up another fight against the in-form Reds at Old Trafford then there’s every chance of another European classic in Manchester.